September 30, 2012
Europe pulls off huge comeback against United States to retain Ryder Cup
By TIM McKAY, QMI Agency
CHICAGO - European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal said Saturday night, "I still believe."
His players showed their leader that they believed, too.
Olazabal's European squad defied all odds Sunday at Medinah Country Club, equalling the the largest comeback in the history of the event -- 1999 at Brookline by the Americans -- to retain the Ryder Cup by a score of 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.
"It means a lot, but just not for me, for all of Europe," Olazabal said, tears in his eyes as he stood by the 18th green, chants of Ole, Ole, Ole erupting around him.
Europe won the first five matches of the day with stalwarts Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Paul Lawrie silencing the crowd early. Sergio Garcia, Lee Westwood and Martin Kaymer brought it home as the Euros pummeled the U.S. 8-3-1 on the day.
The final two matches were not expected to make much of a difference but it came down to those four players, none of whom previously had earned a single point for their squads.
Kaymer, the former world No. 1 who didn't play at all on Saturday for the Europeans, closed out Steve Stricker in the second to last match after a solid fairway bunker shot and two putts to win 1-up and clinch the Cup.
"I am disappointed that I let 11 other players down," Stricker said.
Tiger Woods, out last for the Americans, didn't factor in as his halved match with Francesco Molinari was of no consequence to the final outcome, the Europeans already having gotten the necessary 14 points.
Wearing the silhouette of Ryder Cup great Seve Ballesteros on their sleeves and over their hearts, the Europeans put up a fight of which the Spaniard, who died of cancer in May 2011, would have been proud.
From the outset this week, Olazabal made it clear this was to be a tribute to the man with whom he made a formidable Ryder Cup pairing over the years.
"Seve will always be present," Olazabal said. "He was a big factor.
"I think the boys understood that believing was the most important thing, and I think they did."
Olazabal has felt bitter defeat before. He was playing Justin Leonard in Sunday singles on that day in 1999 when the Americans clinched the comeback and the Cup for his team. This time, it was American captain Davis Love's turn, he too part of the 1999 Battle of Brookline.
"I don't have a reaction yet," Love said after the gutting. "We are all kind of stunned. We know what it feels like now from the '99 Ryder Cup. It's a little bit shocking and you know, we were playing so well. We just didn't figure it mattered how we sent them out there (Sunday)."
After the European dominance early in the day, the Americans looked as if they had steadied the ship with Dustin Johnson taking down Nicolas Colsaerts and Zach Johnson dispatching Graeme McDowell.
But it was the missteps of veteran players for the U.S. side that again turned it the Euros' way and ultimately proved to the the Americans' undoing.
Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk and Stricker, the three most senior members of the American team -- in age anyway -- all lost the 17th and 18th holes to drop their matches.
Europe's previous largest final-day comeback to win was from two points back in 1995 at Oak Hill.
Poulter, who sparked the European rally with his clutch performance Saturday night, did it again in Sunday's second match, winning the final two holes against Webb Simpson for a 2-up victory and becoming the first player in 31 years to go 4-0.
"I just can't actually believe what's happened," Poulter said. "It's just unbelievable."
Well, you'd better believe it.